Why I said yes when my 4-year-old son, with autism, asked for an American Girl doll

I shocked a lot of people today in the American Girl store when I let Gavin pick out a doll. Most of the staff thought we were there just for Kendall and that Gavin was there to be the supportive little br20160709_143922352_iOSother. The truth is though, after the new catalog arrived at our house, they both asked if they could get a doll this weekend. I was happy to take Kendall, because she had a gift card she has anxiously been waiting to spend. But with Gavin, it was a a different kind of happiness. There are no words that can express the excitement I felt when when he asked if he could get a doll too.

It was only three years ago that I sat with this same boy while he lined up all of his toys in a row in an effort to try and play with them. When Doug and I would inquire with his therapy team on why he did this their response was especially hard to hear. They explained to us that Gavin did not understand how to play with toys. 20160709_151756266_iOSTo him, lining all of them up or grouping them by colors is what made sense. Beyond trying to teach him speech, OT, and social skills they also spent time working with Gavin on understanding what it meant to play with toys.

When Gavin asked for a doll it seriously warmed my heart. I wasn’t 100% that he would actually play with it, but I figured we would see how he did at the st20160709_143915114_iOSore. While Kendall debated about which doll she was going to get we walked Gavin over to the Bitty Baby section. He immediately grabbed a baby off of the shelf and started walking her around. He held her in his arms and hugged and and tried to get her to go to sleep.

Sure our I could have taken him to another retailer afterwards and purchased a significantly cheaper doll for him, but this is this one he wanted and this moment was worth celebrating! Since purchasing our Bitty Baby doll this morning he has named her, Baby Jenny. He has explained to all of us that her birthday is June 9th (she’s one month) and that he is her big brother.

As a society we encourage children to play with toys for several different reasons.  There are toys that teach kids and there are toys that exist exclusively for them to have fun. Today I was able to watch Gavin excel in pretend play. Finding him snuggled up with his new baby doll tonight is a moment I didn’t even know that I had been waiting for all these years.

His journey continues to surprise me and amaze me everyday.  I see a lot of Bitty Baby accessory shopping in our future. I can’t wait to sit back and watch his imagination take flight with Baby Jenny.

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